Rock Shoe Rant

I’m feeling like ranting today, but instead of going off on this video I just saw about how if we all rode bikes then global warming would go away (a huge crock of sh%t), I’ll focus on something a little more relevant: trying on rock climbing shoes. A common problem I’ve run into whenever I want to get some new shoes is that most stores don’t carry much of a selection, making it difficult to try before you buy.

Now, I did once successfully get the right size based on a recommendation from a friend with the same size feet, but most of the time this feels like a crap shoot. Each model usually has such a different fit that you really need to be able to try it on yourself, in my opinion. Maybe this is only an issue for us because we live in a small town, but it seems like no matter what store I go into, they hardly ever have much of a selection other than the really popular models.

Case in point. I’d like to take a look at the new FiveTen Copperheads (sorry, can’t link to them thanks to their crappy flash website). They are supposed to be great for cracks and look like good shoes for the Creek. However, I have yet to find a place that has them in stock. Not even the esteemed Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, maybe one of the best climbing shops in the country, had them last time I was there. I also ran into this problem when I wanted to get some La Sportiva Barracudas. No local shops had them, not even the Yosemite Mountain Shop. Sheesh!

Now I understand that it can be tough for these stores to keep a big inventory of shoes that they might not sell many of, but I also know it’s in the best interest of the shoe company for people to be able to try on your stuff so they can then make a purchase. I suppose for now the best option is ordering a couple different sizes from a place that allows returns, and sending back the ones that don’t fit. Sucks to have to use all that extra shipping though just to dial down your size.

Anybody else run into this problem?

25 Responses to Rock Shoe Rant

  1. I’ve run into the same problem, which has pretty much forced me to stick with the same brand/model of shoes. I’ll often buy my first pair at a gear shop, then order the exact same pair online when the first set wear out. If the local gear shops here had a better selection, I’m sure I’d be changing makes and models to match whatever the latest and greatest is.

    You could try zappos. They have the Copperheads and claim free shipping AND free returns. I’m probably going to try them this winter for a pair of mountaineering/ice climbing boots.

    Ben October 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm
  2. A big comment in that first paragraph coming from the guy that ALWAYS drives 1.3 miles to town…

    However I’d like to see the video link that claims “global warming would go away” as i’ve yet to see that claim. But biking is one of the biggest, easiest things a single person can do to help the cause.

    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 5:54 pm
    • Ah Dave, I figured you’d bite on that one, going to drag it out of me, eh? T was watching some video link last night basically implying that bikes were going to save the world. Yes, biking instead of driving is better for the environment. But the idea that all we need to do is stop driving and that will save the planet is completely unfounded. So many other things in our lives have impacts far greater that no one is really talking about.

      For example, me driving 1.3 miles to town a couple times a week, I would imagine, is significantly less impactful then the mining process that extracted the metals that were used to make your bike. Add to that the fact the bike was probably shipped across the ocean from China, on a big ass boat that also had to be mined out of the earth and powered with fossil fuels. So by purchasing a bike, I have implicitly given approval to so many more environmentally damaging processes than emitting some CO2 from my car. So yes, drive less and it will help, but riding bikes is a far cry from being the solution to saving the planet.

      I suppose my main point is that nothing is as black and white as everyone wants to make it in the climate change debate, but really I’ve probably just been reading AdBusters too much recently.

      BJ Sbarra October 8, 2009 at 6:43 pm
  3. We have this problem pretty badly where I live. I’m not sure what can really be done about it though as I assume it’s difficult for shops to carry a wide variety of shoes. My main tactic is to either a) be injured so often that your shoes never wear out or b) just get the same shoes over and over again.

    Narc October 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm
  4. Noticed something else…trying on rock climbing shoes is more relevant than a practical solution to saving the planet?

    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm
    • Relevant in regards to this site. Obviously there are way more pressing problems in the world, but were here to talk about climbing, sorry if that wasn’t clear.

      BJ Sbarra October 8, 2009 at 6:44 pm
  5. So Colorado has all the rock and California has all the gear stores?? I guess I’ve just gotten lucky. Wilson’s Eastside sports in Bishop and Desert Rock Sports in Vegas have a really good selection though neither are really close to where I live… Not to mention I can just go straight to Five Ten in Redlands to try on shoes (which I did for the copperhead).

    I have yet to climb in the Copperhead outside (just gym cracks) but my initial worry is that they won’t stretch as much as the same size of mocasyms. I love the mocs for IC since I can get my toes to lie flat. I will have a review up of the Copperheads as soon as I put them through their paces. My recommendation is to get the same size as your mocasyms. For me this is one size larger than the TC Pro. So I do 39 in TC pro and 40 in Copperhead.

    Luke October 8, 2009 at 6:37 pm
  6. I beleive you just used the singular “bike” when referring to Mr. Downing’s preferred mode of transportation. It should probably be referred to as “bikes” as I believe his household now has an even dozen of those two wheeled traffic stoppers.

    At least Dave is not adding to the #1 cause of global warming… population growth.

    Yuani October 8, 2009 at 7:13 pm
  7. “I have implicitly given approval to so many more environmentally damaging processes than emitting some CO2 from my car”

    Ah, Bj, you’re point would be valid if you were walking everywhere, but your car is using up so many more metals and plastics, gasoline, freon for aC (right?). Additionally, my commuting bikes are all bikes that were left for dead and recycled to working order by me. There are 100’s and thousands of unused bikes in every community that a want-to-be-biker could fix up and not require any more mining, etc.

    Unless you are going to cancel all activities that require materials beyond your ability to hunt and gather them within walking distance of your home, your argument is invalid. It’s simply a good point to consider when buying a “made in taiwan” bike, perhaps buy american next time.

    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm
    • @dave Ah, but that is my point exactly. Unless we all move to big cities, stop pursuing any recreation and buy only local products, we are all contributing on some level. People like to talk about things like riding bikes, because it makes them feel like they can do something important, when in truth, much bigger issues are lurking. It’s so much easier to say “I’m riding a bike, I’m saving the environment” than to ponder the scarier truth that everything in my house came from China and the impact THAT had on the environment.

      Another popular one would be hybrid cars. Everyone thought, wow, I can buy this hybrid car and save the environment. What they didn’t take into account is that both the extraction process and the metals themselves in the batteries are super toxic, and once they are spent there is no good way to get rid of them, so we are left with more decaying toxic crap. At best the status quo continues, at worst we’ve created a new problem in our attempt to save the world.

      So, again, my point is not that I’m better than anyone or anything like that, it’s that nothing in this debate is black and white, and people only like to talk about the somewhat superficial issues that are comfortable and avoid the more important ones that aren’t.

      I have climbing gear made of toxic metals, I drive hours to go to climbing areas and I ride ski lifts that are run all winter long for the sole purpose of recreation. I work on a computer all day that uses electricity most likely from a coal fired power plant. I am in no way saying that I am above riding bikes to help mitigate my impact on the world. All I’m saying is that these folks who are picking one thing and saying it’s the solution are incredibly naive and narrow minded. There is no question that if more people rode bikes it would lessen carbon emissions, and I hope everyone does, but it would still only be a blip compared to everything else going on: industry, population growth, shipping, military, etc.

      In the end it comes down to the fact that I just wanted to see more balanced discussions of the issues, not these “pick one thing and it’ll save the world fantasies”, then maybe some real progress could be made.

      So now you got me to rant on what I wasn’t going to, can I send you a bill for my time? πŸ˜‰ Also, your point about thousands of used bikes is excellent and hopefully more people will embrace using them. But then again we are Americans and we do like our toys shiny and new…

      BJ Sbarra October 8, 2009 at 8:13 pm
  8. oooh! yay Adbusters! Going vegetarian is one of the best ways to save the planet πŸ™‚ But whatever, I’m not here to preach. Thanks for the shoe updates as I’m in need of a new pair while the old ones get resoled. I think the guy who mentioned Zappos probably has the best idea. As you said, there’s not enough incentive for stores to keep sufficient stock for everyone to try on everything they’d like.

    Katie H October 8, 2009 at 7:41 pm
  9. Global warming, bikes vs. cars, finding a shop with a decent climbing shoe selection?

    You people are all missing the real problem here – what’s up with all those lame Steep and Cheap ads, all over the front page of your site BJ? Now, that’s the travesty.

    Mike October 8, 2009 at 8:20 pm
    • @mike yeah yeah, I’m working on it. maybe if you clicked on them and bought more stuff I could hire a proper programmer…

      BJ Sbarra October 8, 2009 at 8:34 pm
  10. i don’t think moving to cities is the answer, neither is giving up recreation. Consider hiking, barefoot, no seriously. Or climbing, barefoot, with handmade ropes for pro (what climbing movie showcased that last year? in czech rep.? croatia? somewhere in e. europe). Bikes would be hosed in this fully natural scenario, but given that so much metal already exists, we could def. survive with bikes for transport for a while without make new metal. Additionally, seems to make more sense to live in small communities were land may be available to grow your own food as opposed to cities.

    i never claimed a black and white argument, i felt that’s what i was getting. that bikes were a pile of S$%&. I’m saying, take little steps, b/c eventually they all add up to big steps.

    and as for shoes, i need a new pair, got any more hand me downs πŸ™‚

    and where’s the movie footage from mt. justice, still waiting on that…


    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm
    • @dave no shoes currently, unless you could squeeze into T’s old size 5’s.

      Also, I wasn’t saying YOUR argument was black and white, rather those put forth in popular culture, like this video I saw. Also, you should definitely get props for being one of the most dedicated bike riders around, even when its heinous out you stick to your guns and ride your bike, which I think speaks volumes of your level of commitment to the cause you believe in.

      now about that footage…

      BJ Sbarra October 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm
  11. don’t forget to hire a proper designer too!!!!!!!!! πŸ™‚

    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm
  12. though i do like the comment numbers.

    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm
  13. to the topic at hand now…selection.
    You see this all over, bike shops, ski shop, etc. It sucks when you want to support the local economy and shop, but they don’t have what you want. They’re always quick to offer to order it for you, but that defeats the initial point of trying something on first. This then comes down to companies spreading their product lines so thin. There is a sub-category between every sub-category between every category. The question is, why? Are we as consumers really buying into such specification? I think on a blog like this, in most core circles of athletes and participants, no. However, we all know about pro-forms and steep and cheap and every other method of not paying full price. So the everyday joe that never wears anything out, but only buys to get the latest in greatest is driving the who thing, right? If everyday joe would stop, then the shop would only have a few pairs of each brand to carry and we could just try them all on and be happy. So the obvious solution is we much kill the everyday joe. All of them. And that would solve over-population and global warming too…

    dave downing October 8, 2009 at 9:00 pm
    • you are a man ahead of your time. truly.

      and the proper designer is on the list right after the programmer…

      BJ Sbarra October 8, 2009 at 9:02 pm
  14. I think this is the longest conversation you two have had in months… Its like we never left. πŸ™‚

    jess d October 8, 2009 at 9:17 pm
  15. Dave, mix in a bit of work buddy, it looks like you are just trolling here at splitterchoss So far the new neighbors have no bikes and they leave there cars running all night:)

    Lynn October 8, 2009 at 9:37 pm
  16. Hopefully dave downing doesn’t have kids. Because even one vegan kid growing up in the US is the more environmentally unfriendly than owning a Hummer.

    As for rock shoes, brick and mortars haven’t made a profit on them in a decade. If they are good about watching the numbers and picking hot models, they are lucky to break even. If they don’t pay attention to turn rate, staff time, early-buy discounts, etc, then it’s a sure thing that stores will lose money selling rock shoes. Hopefully, shoppers buy other stuff when they visit or the smart stores will simply drop rock shoes entirely. The truth is over half the shoppers just use the brick and mortars for fit and then hunt discounts on the net.

    pete October 9, 2009 at 12:02 am
  17. I always have this problem. The other thing I try is to test new models whenever I see them at climbing shops and events. If I find a good fit, I just write down the model/size and keep it on my computer.

    This obviously doesn’t solve the problem of finding the shoes you want to try on in the first place, but if you hit enough climbing events and stores on road trips you an eventually build up a list of what fits.

    I’ve also found that even among the same model, same size, there can be variances so I try to never order online and always try on in a store before buying.

    The main issue is inventory costs and I’m not sure there’s any solution to this problem.

    Maybe Zappos as Ben mentioned in the first comment with their free shipping and returns is the solution? But how long before they cut us off with so many returns…

    Tom Markiewicz October 9, 2009 at 12:42 am
  18. Pretty lucky here in Bristol, UK, got a good local shop with a good enough range for me – – guy’s really sound, had shoes all over the floor last time I was in there dialing in the sizes. Got the size so close though that i had to go back a few weeks later when the summer started to get the next half size up, coz my feet puffed passed the point of endurable!

    Lil' Pete October 14, 2009 at 8:11 pm
  19. Yep. I’m actually getting to the point in my climbing where I want different shoes for different disciplines. I’d like a technical downturned shoe for indoor and bouldering. I want something like the TC by La Sportiva for all day trad climbing. I also want to get a new pair of general purpose super comfy Mythos. The only thing that any store has are a few lace ups that don’t fit my wants/needs, and of course, the Mythos (everyone has those). I feel your pain.

    Jake January 30, 2011 at 1:32 am
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